Migration from Africa: No wonder they still try

The Economist

Why so many Africans still risk their lives to reach Europe

“GET free or die trying,” runs a graffito in English on the wall of a migrants’ detention centre on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya’s capital. The author was one of the countless migrants to pass through the fetid, overcrowded facility, his fate unknown.

Some of the people herded into more than 20 such centres across Libya were intercepted by Libyan naval vessels as they attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Others were arrested before reaching the sea by Libyan militias that have held sway since the revolution that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco’s role in Africa: Making more of it

The Economist

Morocco is vying with Algeria for more influence in the region

KING Muhammad VI of Morocco’s trip to Mali could not have gone better. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali’s president, and his entire cabinet were waiting on the tarmac to welcome the monarch off his jet on February 18th. When the king bestowed Morocco’s highest honour on Mr Keita, he promptly renamed a boulevard in Bamako after him (Muhammad’s name is emblazoned on a red and green billboard). Over five days of pomp, pageantry and public displays of affection, Muhammad signed 18 agreements, covering microfinance to defence and energy. He is hoping to do the same in Ivory Coast, Guinea and Gabon, the remaining stops on his tour. Read the rest of this entry »


Destroying Timbuktu: The Jihadist who Inspires the Demolition of the Shrines

This TV grab shows Omar Hamaha, military chief of the Islamist group Ansar Eddine, gesturing on April 3, 2012 in Timbuktu. AFP / GETTY IMAGES

TIME.com

The charismatic military leader of Salafist rebels in Mali may just be helping to found an Islamic caliphate but he is also taking apart an ancient city’s heritage.

Oumar Ould Hamaha is a one-man whirlwind of piety and fury. For more than a decade he has —  by his own account and others — raided government outposts in Mauritania, Algeria and Niger; held Western hostages for extravagant ransoms; and proselytized a ferocious asceticism over the barrel of a gun. Riding with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, he has crisscrossed the shadowless Sahara in the service of a god he envisions as unforgiving as the desert itself. He has invoked Koranic verses to protect himself from the “evil work of devils” and “the biting of snakes and scorpions,” learned to navigate by the sun, moon and stars, and believes that meteor showers are battles between djinns and angels. It has been a ferocious transformation for a former student of accounting. Read the rest of this entry »


West’s ally in volatile region is rocked by soldier’s revolt

The Times

Within 24 hours Mali’s stable democracy has reached the brink of civil war, reports Julius Cavendish in Bamako

Mali was on the brink of civil war last night after mutinous soldiers led by a cadre of young officers seized the capital, Bamako, but failed to corner President Touré, who regrouped outside the city with a crack unit of paratroopers.

The renegade soldiers, angered by the Government’s failure to arm them to fight Tuareg rebels, stormed the presidential palace overnight, arresting senior members of the Cabinet.

Some troops fuelled by alcohol then went on a rampage, looting the palace, which bestrides limestone cliffs overlooking the centre of Bamako, and carting off flat-screen televisions, computer monitors and photocopiers. Read the rest of this entry »


Nomadic rebels now armed to the teeth after fall of Gaddafi

The Times

To cries of Allahu akbar and the din of heavy weaponry looted from Colonel Gaddafi’s arsenals, Tuareg rebels rode out of the desert on January 17 to attack the flyblown town of Ménaka in eastern Mali.

The veiled warriors, historically known as the Blue Men because of their distinctive flowing indigo robes and black headscarves, struck at dawn, their armoured column approaching army and National Guard posts, sending the government troops fleeing.

In successive months they waged a lightning brand of desert warfare, striking on multiple fronts and humiliating the Malian Army with a series of defeats. Read the rest of this entry »